Premature tree cutting at Lansdowne a mistake: councillor

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Sylvia Holden Park set to be razed, but not before notifying residents

Laura Mueller,

GLEBE – Some Glebe residents say they now have even less faith in the Lansdowne Park redevelopment plan – and their city councillor – after contractors began cutting down trees in Sylvia Holden Park without permission on June 5.

Holmwood Avenue residents were surprised to awake to the sound of chainsaws cutting down a stand of about a dozen trees at the end of Adelaide Street.

The city quickly halted the work after Capital Coun. David Chernushenko became aware that the trees were being removed around 9:30 a.m. Cutting is on hold until June 11, Chernushenko said.

Chernushenko said he was "shocked" to find out about the tree cutting and said it was his and the city's intent to notify residents and give them time to say goodbye to the park they love.

No one at city hall gave the OK to cut down the trees on June 5, Chernushenko said, placing the blame on contractor EllisDon Construction, or a subcontractor working on behalf of EllisDon.

Chernushenko and the city have asked for a formal apology from the parties responsible, and the councillor suggested a monetary fine might also be in order.

That might now be enough to appease Glebe residents, who say the incident has shaken their already fragile trust in their councillor and the city's authority over the Lansdowne redevelopment.

Holmwood resident Martha McKeen was one of two residents who helped stop the tree cutting by locking her bicycle to construction equipment.

"It just goes to show how powerless he within city council," McKeen said of Chernushenko.

"This is just the beginning of this process, and I think I speak for a lot of people when I say we don't have any faith in the process whatsoever, right from the get go," McKeen said.

McKeen helped organize a protest event that attracted around 100 people to the clearing.

The trees were slated to come down eventually as part of the plant to align a cinema, the relocated Horticulture Building and a row of townhouses along Holmwood Avenue, but the city is supposed to give 48 hours notice when that work is set to begin, said city spokesperson Michael Fitzpatrick.

Another area resident, Carol McLeod, said she got a head's up that work might begin because the city asked her and the Glebe Community Association's environment committee to remove plants they have an agreement to tend within the boundaries of Sylvia Holden Park. They were given a deadline of May 31 to move out, McLeod said.

Some residents, including Michael Vickers of Adelaide Street, worried that the treeless swath at the foot of Adelaide would eventually become an access road for heavy construction vehicles. Vickers, who grew up in the Glebe and has lived on Adelaide for a decade, said he would seriously consider moving rather than listen to construction noise driving by for two years.

Around 20 of the trees in the entire park will be saved and moved to other locations, and some residents at the protest called on the city to save and move more of the trees.

Chernushenko and Fitzpatrick both said that primary construction access will be from Bank Street and it is not their understanding that Holmwood would be used for construction vehicles.